11 Dishwasher Do’s And Don’ts That Everyone Should Know

Dishwasher Do's and Don't printable - hand holding the printable over an open dishwasher rack

Bury The Hatchet With These Dishwasher Tips And Tricks

Based on everything that I’ve heard from my readers over the years, there’s one particular household chore that seems to be a source of contention for many people. Can you guess what it is? I would have guessed it had something to do with cleaning the toilet, but it has nothing to with the bathroom at all!

Surprisingly, a lot of household chore drama seems to stem from the dishwasher. I’ve heard arguments about loading it, unloading it, how much it can hold, when to start a wash cycle, how to clean the dishwasher, and much more!

Related: 11 Things You Should Never Put In Your Dishwasher

Dishwasher Do's and Don'ts Printable - dishwasher full of dishes

I’ve actually received a handful of requests for a guide about the right way to load a dishwasher. I love to meet specific requests when I can, but it’s not really feasible to make a universal guide for loading dishwashers because every model is different.

Some have unique features that other machines don’t have, so it would be hard to make recommendations that would be equally useful to everyone. (One spot you can find great tips about loading your specific dishwasher? Your dishwasher’s user manual!)

Dishwasher Do's and Don'ts Printable hanging on a wall

Do’s And Don’ts Of Dishwashers: A Printable Dishwasher Guide

So instead, I decided to put together a dishwasher guide with some useful “do’s and don’ts” that I hope will help settle at least a few of those dishwasher-related squabbles!

Use the links below to download my dishwasher guide as a printable PDF, a mobile-friendly image file, or both!

Download The Dishwasher Guide

“Do’s and Don’ts of Dishwashers” Printable Guide

Click the button below to download a printable PDF file of my “Do’s and Don’ts of Dishwashers” guide.

Dos and don'ts of using a dishwasher.

Download The PDF

“Do’s and Don’ts of Dishwashers” Mobile Guide

Download a mobile-friendly image file of my “Do’s and Don’ts of Dishwashers” guide.

Dishwasher do's and don'ts: A comprehensive guide.

Download The Mobile Guide

And here are a few extra dishwasher tips and tricks you might find useful…

5 Bonus Dishwasher Tips And Tricks

1. Clean Your Sponges

Wash your kitchen sponge or dish brush once a week in the utensil compartment of your dishwasher. This will help eliminate bacteria and mildew that may be forming in your cleaning tools.

Dishwasher Do's and Don'ts Printable - very dirty dish in the bottom rack of a dishwasher

2. Pre-Treat Extra Dirty Dishes

Mix a couple of cups of water with a small amount of dishwasher detergent, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Use the spray bottle to “pre-treat” heavily soiled dishes before you load them into your dishwasher. The detergent will go to work immediately on the grease and grime, and your dish will be more likely to come out sparkling clean.

3. Rinse Aid Check

Check to see if your detergent has a rinse aid in the formula. If it does, you probably don’t need to add more rinse aid to your washer!

4. Clean The Spray Arms

If your dishes don’t seem to be coming out as clean as they once did, use a toothpick to clean out the small holes on your dishwasher’s spray arms. They can get clogged up with gunk over time, which can reduce the spraying action.

Dishwasher Do's and Don'ts Printable - bottom rack of a dishwasher pulled out and loaded with pans and dishes

5. Unload From The Bottom Up

When you’re unloading your dishes, start with the bottom rack first. That way you won’t be dripping any leftover water from the top rack onto the clean dishes in the bottom rack. :-)

For more great tips about your dishwasher, check out:

Do you have any other dishwasher tips you would add to this list?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


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  1. I used to refurbish/repair old dishwashers by the dozens that were replaced for various reasons, so believe me when you read what I am posting here. All to many of them still had plenty of life left in them.They just need some tlc or a minor repair/part replacement here and there. Rule 1 is to not use your dishwasher as a garbage disposal. Remove any debris that won’t dissolve in water before putting the dishes in the dishwasher. That means no bones, meat scraps, jar labels, small plastic bits, nails, screws, jewelry, hairpins, etc (yes, i have found all of those and more in dishwasher that I worked on). Have a sprayer on you sink? Use it. Rule 2 is to put 2 or 3 DROPS of dish detergent in the soap cups before adding the dishwasher soap. This will help to remove greases and oils and send them more easily down the drain, and will also help to keep your drain line clean. Rule 3 is to run the hot water in your sink before starting the dishwasher so you are not trying to wash the dishes with the cold water in the pipies between the dishwasher and water heater. Rule 4 is turn on the heat booster on the dishwasher if your machine has one. Water heaters are supposed to be set at 120 degrees (ours is at 110), and that is just not hot enough to clean your dishes. The heat booster will heat the water to 140 to 145 degrees so that the soap will work better and get the dishes cleaner. And speaking of soap, do not trust the tablets or pods with built in rinse agents to do the job of keeping your dishes spot free. Rinse agent should be dispensed in the rinse cycle, not the wash cycle, which is precisely what is happening when you use the pods or tablets, as they dissole completely in the wash cycle, so there’s nothing left when the rinse cycle starts. Their included rinse agent is then just washed down the drain when the machine empties its water at the end of the wash cycle, so it accomplishes precisely nothing. Have a rinse agent tank on the soap dispenser? Use it and keep it full. Rule 6 .Have a stinky dishwasher? Have a filter screen in the bottom of your dishwasher? Take it out and clean it off after each wash, otherwise that food debris just sits in there rotting and creating a stench. And finally, Rule 5. If you are going to be available when the dishwasher is finished running, don’t waste power on having the dish dryer run to dry the dishes. Just open the door and the residual heat will dry those dishes in just a very few minutes and allow them to cool so you can handle them without burning your fingers while putting them away. This also allows the dishwasher tank itself to dry, so less chance of stinky odors from that, too.

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  2. Putting a sponge is the dishwasher is, at best, ineffective and at worst, just adds more dirt to the sponge that’s getting pummeled with all the dirty water.

    I think the concern over germy sponges is silly. If you use soap and water and rinse dishes, the germs go with the other dirt: down the drain.

    And if your sponges smell, it’s because you don’t ring then out when you’re done using them. Our sponges never smell and we use them until they start falling apart.

    Replacing sponges frequently to prevent germs doesn’t help. They max out on germs immediately, just like a toothbrush. Germs don’t build up each day.

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    • No matter the method used to “disinfect” the sponge (microwave, dishwasher, etc.), studies have shown the sponges with the least amount of pathogens are the ones washed and left out to become bone dry (2-3 days or more). I keep three sponges and rotate them so I know I always have one that has completely dried out between uses.

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  3. Dirty sponges? Not a problem and easy and quick. Soak your sponge in diluted bleach and water. Viola! No smell anymore and clean.

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  4. The new packets of dishwasher detergent + gel shiner are too large for my dispensers. When they automatically open the packet gets stuck, half of detergent might fall, but the plastic around gel is caught in the plastic casing that is half melted. I can’t find the original packet (without shiner) anymore. They worked fine. I am going to try the suggestion you received about putting packet in the utensil basket.

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    • Stick with gel or powdered soap and that problem will go away. Gel and powder are also more economical. I find Aldi Gel dishwasher soap to work just fine.

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  5. While you don’t need to rinse the plates completely clean, you definitely do need to scrape off all the bigger stuff – as a plumber once said to my mother in law, “It’s a dishwasher, not a bl@@#y garbage disposal”. Depending on the dishwasher, some will handle a few bits (as long as you clean the filters regularly), but others will be a nightmare.
    Make sure to clean it regularly – ALL the filters (some have a second lower filter, plus the mesh stuff on the ‘floor’ around the filters) once a week, plus monthly check and clean the spray arms, wipe the seals, etc. Tip – if the bits in the spray arms don’t come out easily (and they are removable arms), you can tape the holes shut, fill the arm with water, shake around and pour it all out again. Repeat multiple times until all the bits come out again. A pair of tweezers may also come in handy.
    I just had to clean out a dishwasher after the tenants of two years moved out – they obviously didn’t follow any of these rules, and it’s miracle that any of their dishes came out clean given how grubby the dishwasher was (even after they had run a cleaner through it). There was greasy gunk round all the seals, the filters were almost completely blocked with yet more greasy gunk, and both spray arms had multiple holes blocked with lentils and bits of plastic wrapper. It took almost an hour and a lot of cursing to get it properly clean, and even then when I ran another cleaner through it the filters needed re-cleaning. I’m going to whip up a Do’s and Don’ts list to tape inside the pantry listing things like dishwasher, oven, range hood and septic tank information in the faint hope that next time a tenant moves out I don’t have to do a years worth of basic cleaning and maintenance.

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  6. I use oxiclean ( half a scoop) in detergent cup and use white vinegar to fill the rinse aid container. I also prerinse all dishes and use the short wash cycle (1 hour) and no heated dry cycle. LOVE IT !!!!

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    • Similar. I fill 1/4 to 1/3 of the cup with citric acid, then the rest of the way with oxygen bleach. 2-3 drops dawn on top and close it up. I still use rinse aid but dilute it 50/50 with distilled water. Been doing this 20+ years. Dishes and the dishwasher still look new.

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  7. The latest research is that kitchen sponges are the single biggest germ trap and Spread those germs onto all the surfaces they are used on. Also they found that washing them in a dishwasher, even on the hottest cycle, doesn’t kill the germs as only the outside gets washed. As soon as the sponge is squeezed in use, all the germs inside pop out again.

    The advice is to throw away sponges after a week’s use at the most, or even better, not use them at all.

    I can’t understand all the fuss about washing cutlery dirty side up. Why would you want the dirty side down in the basket where it doesn’t get rinsed as well as the part above the basket? Who empties a dish washer with “grubby little paws”? Even with the handles in the basket, it is still usually possible to get hold of the stem between handle and eating end if you are that particular about a very few germs. I hope you store your cutlery in a germ free drawer!

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  8. In my last three dishwashers if I don’t prerinse my dishes don’t get clean. All three were heating the water themselves and I tried all the major brands of detergent packs.
    Also put silverware in handle up cause I don’t want hands on the eating surface. But I never knew it mattered which way up we put the detergent pack!
    And if you stack it’s the top dish that won’t get clean if it’s on top rack. That’s one my hubby still hasn’t learned. LOL
    I love this site and these are great tips

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  9. Wash hands very well before putting clean dishes away, I know it’s no brainer but my number 1 rule in my house.

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  10. I only use about half the manufacturer recommended amount of detergent and the dishes still come out squeaky clean. I use the air dry feature so as not to use extra electricity. Remember if you live in an area that offers a cheaper rate for electricity on off peak hours run your dish washer then it really adds up. I tend to run mine right before bed. That way I can take advantage of cheaper rates and find the hum of the dish washer a nice white noise too.

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  11. Hello! Great tips, thank you.

    The only one I disagree with is how the silverware are shown. Yes, I know a lot of people do it this way so the food cleans off the top and flows down the handle, etc.

    However … doing it this way means that you are now grabbing the clean silverware by part of the that goes into your mouth, adding any germs or messes on your hands to the business end of the eating utensil. And then sticking them all in the dark drawer to let them share these little nasties.

    This works great if
    1. No one is or is getting sick, especially the person emptying the dishwasher
    2. No one in the home has a compromised immune system
    3. Your household follows ServSafe guidelines, such as covering your face, and washing and covering your hands before unloading the dishwasher, preparing or serving food, and so on. But most of us don’t do that

    Also, I’d like to address a prior commenter’s suggestion on putting sponges and such in he dishwasher. Sadly, this is an outdated “good practice” recently proven to be ineffective, same as microwaving them. The bleaching and changing daily is definitely safer.

    Unfortunately, the environmentally unfriendly method of frequently using fresh paper towels spreads germs and ickies the least.

    Or follow the ServSafe guidelines even at home can really help, especially if you have someone with a compromised immune system, such as a cancer survivor or organ transplant recipient. This means we also always use the sanitation cycle.

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    • Actually, I read the article and saw the sponge idea in the body, as well. Earlier I just looked at the graphic … sorry about that.

      Also in the body of the post, I see that the power pack shows the liquid detergent “up”. This doesn’t work well when the water isn’t hot enough to fully melt the gelpack, such as
      older models that don’t heat the water themselves, or your hot water heater isn’t on high enough, such as when living with someone with a scalding risk such as an infant or aging parent.

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      • My appliances repair man cousin said to run the hot water in your sink before you start the dishwasher. He also said to put the gel pack or dishwasher tablet in the utensil holder and not in the dispenser. Works for me.

    • I agree with you completely regarding the silverware. Always wash silverware with the handles sticking up so your dirty little hands grab the handles and not the part you put in your mouth. It is just common sense especially around cold and flu season.

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      • That’s why you’re supposed to wash your hands before handling clean dishes. That is common sense.

      • Don’t take chances in the flu season by grabbing eating utensils (even with freshly washed hands and I hope everyone washes before handling clean dishes). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But then I hope that people wash their hands before filling the ice trays too! That is common sense!

      • By dirty little hands I should have made it clear I was referring to my son emptying the dishwasher. He is 12 and I have watched him wash his hands, start to unload the washer and then pick his butt. He is not the most sanitary person but he tries.

  12. Could you do some hints on the proper way to use a garbage disposal? I’m going to be getting one and want to make sure I don’t mistreat it. Thanks.

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    • NEVER put potato peelings in it. After 2 consecutive Thanksgivings of needing to clean the pipes I learned my lesson. Carrot peels can be a problem, too. I rarely use my disposer to minimize problems with it. Most food (which isn’t much to begin with) goes into the trash.

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      • If you compost food that was going to be put in the trash it is like gold to gardeners.

      • I have vermiculite in the basement. They’ look like some of the happiest little worms on the planet.

        The basement is actually a good place because the temperature stays pretty much the same year round, and there are some really nice ones these days that don’t stick up the place.

        I use the worm factory and am very happy with it.

      • Vermiculture. Thank you, Otto Karect

    • That’s a great idea for a future post, thanks Paula!

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  13. I put my kitchen sponge in the washing machine with the tea towels, cleaning cloths, plastic scourers, etc. on a hot wash and the sponge comes out looking pretty good and no smell.

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    • I put those in my bleach load. And I change them daily.

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